Small details set urban cancer relays apart from rural ones.
Regardless of whether you are wearing a Gaultier boulder holder or cooling off at the windmill, anybody who has been affected by cancer shares the same sentiment.
Recently, I learned that my Tío, whose skeleton is made entirely of funny bones, has prostate cancer.
Whenever my family stayed at the casita Tío, Abuelita, and Abuelito shared in Mezquitan Country, his bug-eyed antics made me laugh til my chicharrones were firm.
Instead of the traditional bueno used to answer a ringing phone, he answered, “Farmacia.”
He would pick us up from the Guadalajara airport wearing his Sunday finery, a Life’s a Beach t- shirt that fit him like a girdle, bell bottoms, and chelsea boots.
His bedroom was a library.
Last night, I took off my heels and walked in the Relay for Rural Life for him. I hope to visit him soon so that I may give him encouragement in person. I felt his presence through memory as I circled the track at the Butler County Fairgrounds.
I think I may frequent more cancer events. They enforce a strict no smoking ban. They serve vegetables.
The DJ spun Johnny Cash as the sun set. Johnny Cash’s musical ethos fit the spirit of the event to a t (cell). Cash’s music acknowledges the fight in all of us. It also acknowledges that someday, we will lose that rumble, and losing is nothing to be ashamed of.
As volunteers ringed the track in luminaries, I slowed my pace. I sought Tío’s. I had not expected the night to feel so Mexican.
Usually, I associate public displays of mourning and grief, accompanied by very personalized declarations of specific tragedies, with Día De Los Muertos and Mexican churches.
As I read the luminarias, I got to know everybody.
I began understanding how intensely regional even illness and death can be.
After a mild panic that I wouldn’t find Tío’s among the 900 white bags, I heard, “Farmacia.”
They misspelled his name, but it fought back. The pause made when the old, white reader of the luminaria honorees got to him could have been filled with a beach.
Because of the Butler County burn ban, the luminarias could not be lit the traditional way. So, they improvised with glow sticks and it did feel a little more urban.